Shildon AFC Development Centre, founded by Sunderland-based IDENTITYCONSULT, is delighted to announce that it has entered into a partnership agreement with the Foundation of Light – the registered charity of Sunderland AFC.

The Foundation of Light was established in 2001 by former club Chairman, Sir Bob Murray CBE, and uses the power of football to involve, educate and inspire more than 42,000 young people and their families across the North East each year.

Last year, at the same time as Shildon AFC Development Centre – which provides football coaching to Shildon’s youngsters from the ages of 5-16 years – was being founded by Shildon-born IDENTITYCONSULT Managing Director, David Dent, the Foundation of Light – in partnership with local housing agency livin – was opening an area office in the South Durham town.

With both the Development Centre and the Foundation of Light sharing many aspirations for the town’s young people, and the Foundation and Identity working together on the exciting Beacon of Light development in Sunderland, the organisations have agreed to pool resources in order to provide a variety of football and vocational courses, delivered by highly trained and experienced coaches and tutors.

The partnership means that Shildon AFC Development Centre will have access to the Foundation of Light’s professional FA qualified Sunderland AFC coaches, while the town’s youngsters and their families will also gain access to the Foundation’s state-of-the-art facilities at their Church Street offices.

Meantime, Foundation of Light intends to refer its young people on to Shildon AFC Development Centre courses and on to its junior teams, which should give more local people access to the Sunderland AFC Academy player pathway as well as access to a range of educational and personal development opportunities.

The Foundation of Light will be offering a ‘girls only’ youth club as part of the local offer for young people within Shildon. Plans are also being drawn up under the partnership to implement a local Soccer Kicks youth initiative which will provide additional evening youth opportunities and access to national Soccer Kicks tournaments.

The Foundation will be providing access to Family First Aid and Wider Family Learning Courses (Family Learning Through Football Coaching), which will help players and parents to improve both their footballing and general life skills.

The partnership will also see the establishment of a Back on Track programme, which involves working with local NEET young people (Not in Education, Employment, or Training), aged between 16-19, to achieve a Level 1 Certificate in Work-skills in order to provide them with access to the employment market.

In addition, the Foundation of Light and Shildon AFC Development Centre will be co-hosting Coaches Clinics. The organisations are also planning to host mini tournaments and community celebrations which will see Sunderland AFC mascots, Samson & Delilah visiting the town, and many play resources and Sunderland AFC-related prizes being made available.

David Dent spoke with enthusiasm about the partnership: “We are really excited about the partnership we have entered into with the Foundation. Our head office is within Sunderland and we are currently supporting the Foundation professionally within the city, but the partnership arrangement in Shildon provides us with a fantastic opportunity to make a tremendous difference to the young people in the town in which I was brought up, and I am sure it will act as a catalyst for the future growth of our Development Centre, underpinning the excellent work that the Foundation have commenced within the area. In combining our resources and networks we will I am sure achieve so much more.”

Foundation of Light Chief Executive, Lesley Spuhler said: “We have a very good track record of engaging communities and providing opportunities that can change people’s lives. Through working with Identity Consult and David we will be able to enhance our work and make an even bigger impact on the region.”